Sequoia Changing Latitudes

19 May 2017 | Zelzate, Belgium
22 April 2017 | Jacksonville, Florida
19 April 2017 | Florida
25 March 2017 | Victoria, B.C., Canada
10 March 2017
02 March 2017 | St. Helens, Oregon
26 July 2011 | St. Helens/Scappoose, OR
20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
01 July 2011 | Hawaii
19 June 2011 | Hawaii
12 June 2011 | Maui, Hawaii
30 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
12 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
06 May 2011 | 547 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii
01 May 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
25 April 2011 | North Pacific
19 April 2011 | La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
06 April 2011 | San Francisco Island, north of La Paz, Mexico
23 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico
14 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico

From one Celtic region to the next: Brittany to Galicia

19 July 2018 | A Coruña, Spain
Barbara/Cloudy but warm
Wow, a week has gone by and so much has happened. Better get writing to get ahead of the crowds of memories! We welcomed Jamie Simpson and Eleanor Kure 8 days ago in Roscoff, France, and said good-bye to them this morning in A Coruña, Galicia, Spain. We had invited them to join us for the crossing of the Bay of Biscay, including several days on either side of the crossing. Good decision!

We always like to have crew for passages that involve more than one night on the ocean. If we don’t have someone else to share the night watches, we get so tired. When we have delightful people with us as well, it’s a true bonus. (To be fair, we’ve only rarely been wrong in choosing extra crew members. They are part of the joy of our cruising life.)

Jamie had joined us on our 2011 passage from La Paz, Baja California to Hilo, Hawaii. He’s a published author on forestry and ecology in the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and since 2011 he’s been to law school, entered the practice of law in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and joined up with partner Eleanor Kure. Eleanor is an artist and entrepreneur. They’re both very good company and most considerate guests.

The morning before they arrived in Roscoff, we had bicycled to the public market and acquired fruits, vegetables, cheeses and meats for the upcoming passage. Craig found a Breton shirt he liked, and we ogled various items that would not make it into our shopping bags. One booth had grilled pork on offer, sliced right off of a still-recognizable barbecued pig. We bought artichokes (we’ve seen fields of artichoke plants here), multi-colored carrots (white, orange, purple, yellow), shallots, potatoes, tomatoes, peaches, spices, and finally superb lunch portions with pork or chicken and potatoes in delicious and aromatic sauces. And a couple of different cheeses. Oh, French cheeses – so many varieties, such wonderful and distinctive tastes!

We bicycled back to the boat and tackled those lunch portions (each of us could only eat half of our respective portion) and saved the rest for later use.

The tides in Roscoff are huge, as in much of the rest of the north coast of Brittany. The old Roscoff harbor dries at low tide and hundreds of small and medium-sized boats are sitting on the mud. In the marina, which has floating pontoons, the ramp up to the land ranges from gentle to stupendously steep. The harbor even installed an elevator down to the pontoon, which I only saw used once in the several days we were there.

Next to the marina is the ferry landing, with ferries coming and going to Plymouth UK, Bilbao Spain, and various other destinations in between. Acres of paved surface are provided for dozens of lanes of waiting vehicles, accessory buildings and bus stops. We knew that Jamie and Eleanor would be arriving somewhere over there, so we went over to try to meet them, despite warnings from the marina office that no buses were arriving at that designated hour. Fortunately, J&E were right about the arrival hour, and we did indeed find them.

The next morning we sailed (actually motored) for L’Aberwrac’h, further west along the Brittany coast. No wind, just dodging other boats and taking extra special care to watch the charts for the frequent unexpected rocks, and strong currents.

L’Aberwrac’h is in a beautiful inlet (“aber” in Breton), and seems to be headquarters for an array of summer camps for children and teenagers. Fleets of small sailing dinghys, windsurfers, stand-up paddle-boards and other watercraft are constantly plying the waters. Onshore there is lots of music, along with basketball and volleyball games. In the morning, you’ll see chains of small craft heading out into the bay, towed by a motorized craft of some sort. The chain consists of windsurfing boards or paddle boards, with a kid standing up on each. Fairly frequently, someone will lose his or her balance, and the whole chain has to stop while they get back in position. There is a friendly, welcoming yacht club with ice cream bars, soft drinks, a bar and a large area for socializing. Along the shores of the inlet, there are lots of beaches, oyster farms, and plenty of people with dip nets, collecting … something.

After we got the boat tied up, Jamie and Eleanor went off for a hike along the beach and came back several hour later with a new dip net and a good supply of small, wriggling shrimp, a few oysters and a few clams. Those all made for excellent hors d’oeuvres when dinner time came around. Craig and I made a biking expedition to the grocery store, although I must admit we did get a ride up the rather steep hill from some sympathetic British tourists with a car.

Brittany seems to be a somewhat independent area with a strong Celtic tradition. Most signage is in both Breton and French. The evening of our arrival there was a Celtic band playing at the yacht club, with accordion, bagpipe, drum, violin, and guitar (at least) and an enthusiastic group of listeners. Jamie is a fiddler, so was intrigued with hearing some of the songs he’s familiar with, and we all enjoyed very friendly ambiance. Craig and I sat at a table with two other boaters – Pat turned out to be a semi-retired British solicitor with a practice much like Rumpole of the Bailey (he said so himself). He assured us that the British practice of law was accurately represented by the Rumpole series. His wife, Deb also seemed like an interesting person, although we learned somewhat less about her. We ran into them several times over the next few days, and interesting conversations always followed.

Two days after our arrival in L’Aberwrac’h, we decided the weather was good to make the passage from there, across the Bay of Biscay to Spain’s northwest corner, the city of A Coruña. We thought it might be a three-night passage, but the currents were so strong (and in a favorable direction) that we made it in 3 days and two nights. Most of it was motoring, with no wind at all, but the last 24 hours we were able to sail. The Bay has such a reputation for awful weather that we were very pleased with how we found it. On the second day a pod of dolphins (about 10 of them) found us. We did a lot of the usual laughing and shrieking at their antics. After a half an hour they seemingly became bored and faded away.

Here in A Coruña we find ourselves in a very friendly marina although with a rather strong surge. We are just a couple of blocks from the Old City area of A Coruña. Here the language is Galician, although everyone also speaks Spanish. Galician seems to be about half way between Spanish and Portuguese, and not too difficult to understand if you speak Spanish. The letter “x” is used with great frequency, and seems to stand in for a variety of different sounds. Here again there is a Celtic heritage, and the folk music could be Irish or Scottish. When we were in Santiago de Compostela yesterday, there was a Galician bagpiper standing in a pedestrian tunnel. His instrument is called “gaita” which is a word fairly similar to the Bulgarian bagpipe “gaida” which our son David plays. We listened to him play, quite expertly, for a bit and then put a few Euros in his case.

In A Coruña, we were introduced to the Spanish tapas custom. Dinner isn’t until 9 pm, and is based on a collection of tapas or raciones which are shared among all diners. In A Coruña, one of the dishes is for sure Chipirones (fried squid) or Pimientos al Padron (fried small sweet green peppers) or Pulpo a la Feria (Fair-style octopus). Over our several days in A Coruña, we have come to love all three.

Our second dinner in A Coruña started at one tapas restaurant, and after a post-prandial walk we stopped at another restaurant for spectacular desserts and a pitcher of sangria. My, but we’re having fun!

We had tapas again after we took the train to visit Santiago de Compostela yesterday. We saw the public market there with superb-looking fish, meats, fruits and vegetables and then settled into an adjacent café for coffee and lunch.

From there we continued to the Cathedral, which is the destination of so many pilgrims from throughout Europe. Like many other European churches, the Cathedral is undergoing continuous restoration, with scaffolding covering many areas and a giant crane towering over the building. We were particularly struck by the numbers of pilgrims we saw, mostly young people with heavy backpacks. They made their way to the hotel specifically provided for them adjacent to the Cathedral.

Inside the Cathedral there were many people, mostly tourists. The main altar is richly embellished with gold leaf. We spent a long time looking at the organ, embellished with hundreds of cherubim and seraphim, and featuring sprays of pipes fanning out into the adjacent open space.

We visited a museum adjacent to the main Cathedral which featured old tapestries, gigantic old bells, and an exhibit about one of the master craftsman who directed work on the cathedral in the 11th century, “Maestro Mateo”. The tapestries were copied from paintings by old Masters Reubens, Goya and the like. I had a conversation with one of the docents, and she explained that the tapestries are called by the names of the old masters, but the needlework was done by others, whose identity we do not know. I asked her, “Mostly women?” and she agreed. Hmmpf.

Well, enough about our over-eating and our enjoyment of the Galician culture. This morning we sadly said good-bye to Jamie and Eleanor, who are off to do some rock climbing in the Picos de Europa east of here before they return home to Halifax. This afternoon we’ll ride bikes to see the Tower of Hercules, originally built by the Romans in the first century AD – a lighthouse at what was then the furthest edge of the civilized world.

We may stay here another couple of days, and then it’s off to the Rias Baixas, a series of inlets which reportedly comprise great cruising grounds, just north of Portugal.

We send our best wishes to all our friends and family, and we hope you’re having as much fun as we are!

Craig & Barbara
S/V Sequoia

Thanks to Eleanor Kure for the cover photo for this post. Check back in a few days for more photos


10 July 2018 | Roscoff, Brittany, FRANCE
Barbara/Partly sunny
Across the inlet from us here in Roscoff is a long pontoon which includes the fuel pumps. But it's also, apparently the only tie-up long enough for boats of more than 50 feet, and it's an easy place to stop for boats in trouble. So in the last 24 hours we saw one German-flagged boat towing another, and depositing the disabled boat on that dock. Another boat on the dock had a problem with its drop-keel (like a centerboard, but for a large boat). He had inadvertently gone aground in a falling tide, until he was high and dry on a mudflat, sitting on the stub keel in which the drop keel is stored when not deployed. Apparently pebbles and who-knows-what-else had jammed into the opening, and he was no longer able to deploy the drop-keel. We watched as he dove several times trying to unjam the mechanism. Ultimately, he was not successful, and has decided to continue to sail with just the stub keel. He's on his way to Martinique! Good luck with any course other than down-wind!

This morning a historic boat from Cameret came into the long pontoon, discharging tourists, loading up more tourists, and taking on bagged supplies, including numerous bags of rice and no produce or meat (that I could see). Good luck to those tourists. Once loaded up, they departed again, ½ hour after arriving.

Yesterday a Russian sailboat came in, about 65 feet long, all grey with matching grey fenders, and proudly flying the flag of the motherland. Obviously fitted out to the hilt for some Russian oligarch.

We had seen another big fancy Russian boat (80 foot power boat) in Plymouth. We were in Plymouth more than a week, and 7 or 8 guys were working on the boat, nonstop, including Saturday and Sunday. There was some construction and repair going on, but mostly it was cleaning, cleaning, cleaning. Craig got the story from one of the workers: This was for an oligarch's wife or girlfriend. The oligarch has a 125 foot boat, but she doesn't like it, so he bought her this one for her own. This was a brand new, out-of-the-factory Princess. And yet it "needed" so many upgrades. (Just an example: fenders with custom covers with the embroidered boat's name...) Toward the end of our stay, they spiffed up the boat with table settings and monstrous bouquets of flowers. Apparently that was for an inspection visit by the oligarch and his girlfriend/wife. Then, the word was, they were going to send the boat to Rotterdam, whereupon it would be transported by land to Moscow, where I guess it will be moored in a river and used for tea parties in the summer.

We've been doing boat chores while in Roscoff. The things you have to do periodically: cleaning out the refrigerator, laundry, inventorying the food on board, repairing mechanical items, etc. Special projects this time included shampooing the boat's carpets (the flooding from an exploded hose in Plymouth had left really obnoxious stains on the carpet), and construction of storage bags for our two new Brompton bikes.

The inventory of canned goods revealed a stash of fly paper (from Hawaii 2011) which had decided to drip its gooey sticky stuff onto the floor of the compartment. Think molasses, but 10 times more viscous. (Not poison, just leg irons for flies). I tried to spatula it up, but it just made long strings of the stuff. We tried a succession of soaps, cleaners and solvents, and did finally find one that worked. Had to use the solvent on the spatula too, and all those places where the strings landed...

Our time in France has been interesting - No wind to speak of, except the day we arrived in St. Malo. St. Malo was an unfamiliar port for us, with most of the radio chatter in French. We knew we had to go through a lock, but had been unable to make contact with the marina inside, where they either would or would not have space for us. We were there (we thought) more than an hour before the first lock opening. While circling around, trying to figure out where to tie up for the wait, we were hailed by a French boat whose skipper spoke English. Adrien, we later found out, had worked in Portland, Oregon for 18 months as a software engineer, so spoke English fluently. He told us that it was not, in fact 6:15 pm as we thought, but 7:15 and the lock would open in 15 minutes. (The French would NEVER want to be on the same time zone as the English...) (Good thing we were - we thought - more than an hour early.) He also advised us about what the line requirements and procedure inside the locks would be, and that we should be prepared to tie up on the port (left) side of the lock.

Once through the lock and inside the marina we tried again to gain communication with the harbormaster to find a place to tie up. No answer. (Adrien later told us they don't want to speak English, nor, I assume French, with someone who is not completely fluent). We tied up to the sea wall where we saw several bigger boats. At that point Adrien came walking along the wall and told us we were in an (unmarked) place designated for Coast Guard boats. Instead we should move ahead into the marina, where there was space along the sea wall as it curved out of sight.

We did that, and it turned out to have been a good choice. We were just steps from the old walled city, with amenities of every sort, and interesting sights to see. Adrien gave us a tour, using the walk on top of the wall. He had such interesting bits of history to tell us. We knew from our guidebook that the city had been heavily bombed by the Allies at the end of the Second World War, and that the present walled city is mostly a reconstruction. Adrien told us that before the bombing, the Germans were holed up in tunnels below an area which the French call "La Cité", which is remote from and existed before the walled city. La Cité was much less densely populated, fewer buildings, and didn't look like an urban center. So the word went out to the Allies from the local French: "Bomb La Cité." An English translator rendered that as "Bomb the city" and not surprisingly, the bombers targeted the very dense walled city.

The French have done a great job of recreating the walled city with its narrow streets, although it does look mostly new (or at least only 60-70 years old). We walked around and saw the view of the beaches and the fortified islands just offshore. We passed many restaurants and fortifications. We stepped inside the Cathedral and admired the mostly-abstract stained-glass windows which have been inserted into the old openings. We saw the dog kennel where hungry bulldogs were historically kept: they were released at 11 pm every evening when the church bells rang the hour, and woe be unto any person who was still about. The dogs were lured back into the kennel at daybreak by a promise of their only meal of the day. You can see the dogs on the seal which appears on every manhole cover throughout the Walled City.

We ate that night in a crepe restaurant which Adrian recommended. It turns out the savory crepes are called "gallettes" and are made of buckwheat. The sweet crepes are actually called "crepes". A lovely way to eat!

That was our last dinner with our son David, who left us the next day to return home to hot-hot-hot southern California. (He was a GREAT visitor/crew on the boat and we enjoyed so much spending the time with him in the Channel Islands and St. Malo). We escorted him to the train station walking our new bikes, and then had a fun ride back to the boat.

That afternoon we rode to the immigration office at the ferry terminal. As advised we had had our Q flag (quarantine) up since our arrival. We were told that if customs/immigration wanted come inspect us they would. They never did, so we finally took it down and went to see them. We needed to get stamps in our passports to prove our entry date for Schengen (visa) purposes.

The bikes have been wonderful for errands like that, and we look forward to many interesting explorations.

We left St. Malo and moved west to a resort town called St. Quay Portrieux. This lovely old town has constructed a well enclosed tidal basin where 1000 boats can tie up. The vast majority are tiny recreational fishing boats (less than 6 meters - 19 feet - in length - there must be a law giving some kind of tax break to such boats). Because it's tidal, and the tidal range is at least 10 meters, the climb up the long ramps is sometimes exceedingly steep.

In St. Quay, we met Gill and Richard, an English couple who quickly became our good friends. We talked about life, retirement, sailing, children, grandchildren, Brexit and Trump. (The nature of cruising is that you meet all these wonderful people, spend a day or two with them, and then you move on or they move on, with words expressed about possible future get-togethers, but sadly it rarely can happen.) Gill and Richard took us on a walk along the coast to the next cove to the north (see photo at the top of this post), and a bar/restaurant where wonderful, delicious mussels in a variety of sauces were being served. This is the dish of the season, and they do it well.

From St. Quay we sailed (actually, motored, there was no wind) to Roscoff, where we are now. Here we will wait for Jamie and Eleanor, who will crew for us as we cross the Bay of Biscay. Roscoff is another Brittany resort, connected by ferry with Plymouth. Gill told us in St. Quay that all of these Brittany resorts were historically used by the upper class British grandparents and the children, while the wealthy parents went to vacation on the Riviera. Gill said that while there are some very nice places here, they are somewhat disfavored (compared to the Riviera) because the weather is "the same as England.". Accordingly, vacation properties here are quite reasonably priced. And apparently moorage costs less than in England. Craig was talking with someone who said there are English boats moored here year-round because of the favorable prices. All that may come tumbling down when Brexit takes full effect.

If this weather is "the same as England" then they must be having very good weather now! We're enjoying the heat, the cool evenings, and the quick drying that my freshly-washed carpets are getting.

We hope you are enjoying yourselves as much as we are!

Best wishes to all.

Craig & Barbara Johnston
S/V Sequoia

Dartmouth to Jersey, Part II

03 July 2018 | St. Malo, Brittany, France
Barbara/Warm, muggy and about to rain!
(Continuing the blog entry which Sailblogs so rudely truncated... And it allows me no extra pictures on this one -- do you suppose I've violated some rule I don't know about?)

But back to Sark. After our visit to historic remains (silver mines, dolmen, cannons...) on Little Sark, we stopped at what appears to be the only tourist establishment there, the Hotel and Restaurant Sablonnerie. It's an oasis of lovely English gardens, with tables set out in the shade and beautiful flowers in every direction. We happened upon it 15 minutes before opening time, and they very graciously accommodated us in a garden settee with cold water to drink while the table setting continued. It was one of those places where the prices don't appear on the menu (so we feared for the worst) but we decided to have lunch anyway. Everything was delicious and elegantly served, including locally caught lobster. The prices turned out to be not TOO bad. The owner, "Elizabeth" invited us to sample her homemade sloe gin, while regaling us with details and stories intended to entice us to come back and/or to send our friends.

After lunch we headed north to the other end of the island; beautiful scenery in every direction. We stopped for an ice cream cone, engaged some local folk in conversation about what it was like to live on a small island, and then headed back down the hill to the ferry.

The bicycle shop owner gave us directions for a “more direct” route. That involved following an ever smaller road, then “just take the path across the field” (what field? What path?) and then finding a trail through the woods. We did eventually find it – muddy, steep, many forks to choose from, and spring nettles threatening our bare legs. Finally down a steep set of muddy stairs and we were on the road to the ferry, returning us to the island of Guernsey.

In Dartmouth and in St. Peter Port we had heard practice sessions of the bell ringers from local churches. It was quite a magical sound coming across the water. In Guernsey we happened upon a bell ringer practice at Ste. Marguerite de la Foret Church where we were able to go inside the church and watch the ringers as they practiced. It’s quite an athletic undertaking, and the timing of the pulls is obviously something that must be learned. Each ringer watches one other person and times their own pull for an exact time later. One of the ringers periodically calls out different numbers and the pattern of the ringing changes. Interestingly, the lowest bell, both in St. Peter Port and in Guernsey, is tuned to A flat. Dartmouth has eight bells – a full octave – whereas the Forest Church in Guernsey has only six. What a treat! I’d gladly trade the exercise class at my gym for a chance to pull bells like that.

As it turned out, our great project of the Channel Islands was acquiring a pair of Brompton folding bicycles. When we were still tied to the outer dock in St. Peter Port, the Swedish boat across the dock from us produced an athletic blonde couple with a pair of these bicycles, which they promptly unfolded and cycled off into town. These bikes fold VERY small and appear to be very sturdily made. Talking with the Swedes and several other Brompton owners, we learned that these bikes can be acquired VAT-free and duty free in the Channel Islands. We visited the Guernsey dealer for Brompton twice – the first time to look and the second time to buy. They had only one bike, but there was another Brompton dealer on Jersey. Craig was soon in touch by phone, and they had several bikes coming in “in the next few days.” So we are now the proud owners of two of these delightful machines, and already getting good use from them.
We had a very pleasant sail to Jersey – at least the first part. Then the wind came up and we had a wild ride into the harbor. We had intended to stay in Jersey several days, but the weather forecast for our planned passage to St. Malo a couple of days later was a bit scary: “Severe thunderstorms”. So we stayed only one day, bought the second bike, I got my hair cut, and we found a grocery store – and then we headed out again, this time for the French port of St. Malo.

I will leave you there, even though it is now several days later. France seems like a new chapter, and deserving of its own blog entry.
In the meantime, we wish you the best. Hope you’re having as much fun as we are!
Craig & Barbara Johnston
S/V Sequoia

Dartmouth to Jersey, Part I

03 July 2018 | St. Malo, Brittany, France
Craig & Barbara/warm but cloudy with threatening rain
If you're wondering why it's been so long since I last wrote about our trip, it's because we've been having too much fun. Yet I'm constantly aware that if I don't commit some words to the blog, I'm likely to forget some of the wonderful experiences we've been having. So I'm writing for those who like to hear about our trip, but I'm mostly writing for me, to remember these wonderful experiences.

When I last wrote, we were in Plymouth, celebrating our 50th anniversary. The plan had been to get as far west as Falmouth, but the winds and weather weren't cooperating. So in the end we decided to return to Dartmouth as a staging-place for crossing the Channel in a single-day, all daylight passage. The goal was Guernsey, where we knew our son, David, would be waiting for us on June 21.

In Dartmouth we did some grocery shopping, checked out some other restaurants, and took a ferry up the Dart River to see Agatha Christie's summer house. This was the house where "Dead Man's Folly" was set. I decided to order the book for my kindle, and I must say it has been fun reading the book, and now knowing exactly the places where the action was taking place. The house and extensive gardens have been beautifully maintained. In the house's library, there is a frieze along the top of all the walls, depicting scenes from World War II. Apparently a US coast guard division was stationed in the river there, and the house was used in part by officers. On of them painted that frieze. Miss Christie declined to have them removed or painted over, so there they still are. While we were touring the house, one of the docents sat down at the well-maintained Steinway and played the theme music from the British Poirot TV series. What fun!
Above: The library at Agatha Christie's house

While we were waiting for the ferry up the river to the Agatha Christie house, we ordered some take-out fish & chips, and sat down on a bench to eat. The seagulls were flying all around, and it wasn't long before one them attacked Craig's carton, right in his hands, in a moment that he was distracted. Quite obviously, the gulls have become accustomed to plentiful offerings from tourists. (And there are lots of tourists in Dartmouth). Our other experience with gulls in Dartmouth was their ongoing use of the docks as a surface against which they fling their shellfish. The shells break upon impact, and then the gulls swoop in to gobble out of the now-open shells. Every day there is a new load of mussel and crab shells on the docks. This practice particularly got my ire when one gull missed the dock and landed his mussel shell on Sequoia's side deck. It made a huge "thunk" and sprayed mussel innards all across the deck.
Above: Seagull leavings on the docks at Dartmouth

We left Dartmouth for Guernsey on June 21 and had a relatively uneventful crossing. There was a lot of planning on Craig's part, considering not just the weather, but also tides. The tidal range in this part of the world can be from 8m in the U.K. to more than 10m (33 feet) in France. That means strong flood and ebb currents changing direction every 6 hours. The strongest tides are the spring tides, which despite the name occurs two days after each new or full moon. In between are the neap tides, about half as strong. Our channel crossing started at 0735 and we pulled into Guernsey's St. Peter Port at 1920. We had a pleasant North wind of about 13 kn for sailing, although it dropped until we motor-sailed the last part. But during the 12 hour passage the current was about 1 kn sideways, first one way, then the other. Turns out the best strategy is just to aim at your destination, with allowance for the net average current, and stay on a constant heading. And avoid the many large ships, of course. It worked out okay!

The Channel Islands are a fascinating mixture of British and French culture. Located close to France between Normandy and Brittany, they are loyal to the English crown and granted self-government. They are NOT part of the U.K or the EU, nor are they in the Schengen zone. Predominantly English speaking, they also historically spoke a patois of French origin. The names of the streets, neighborhoods, towns and cities are mostly in French.

We met our son David at the dock, shortly after we arrived in St. Peter Port, Guernsey. He joined us in the Channel Islands rather than another leg of our voyage because he had a particular agenda: He is writing a science fiction novel set on a fictional island not unlike Sark. Sark is a much smaller island than Guernsey or Jersey, with a more agrarian culture. We bought tickets for an all-day excursion to Sark by ferry for a couple of days after our arrival.
Above: Craig and David on the docks at St. Peter Port.

The first day in Guernsey we spent walking around St. Peter Port, and David found the Priaulx Library, which is a repository of all sorts of information about the Channel Islands.
Above: David at the Priaulx Library, about to dig into the bound volumes of old newspapers.

Initially we docked in the outer portion of the St. Peter Port harbor. It is subject to the extremes of the tides, which can have a change of up to 12 meters. But there is no electricity or water on the outer docks, and we've become spoiled. So we inquired about the possibility of entering the inner harbor, which is behind a cill (like an underwater wall). You need high water to get in or out. When the tide drops, water is trapped behind the cill, maintaining a depth of 2.1 meters in at least some parts of the harbor. Sequoia's draft (the part that is below the water) is 2.1 meters, so the harbor staff thought we'd be fine. So in we went with a fleet of other boats, and the harbormaster directed us toward "the best slip in the harbor." As the tide went out, and we saw the cill become a waterfall, we also watched our depth sounder. Before long it showed that we should be touching bottom. If so, it was a pretty soft bottom, because we never felt any bumping.

The next day we took the ferry to Sark. There are no cars on Sark. If you want mechanized transport, there are tractors, including ones that pull passenger carts of various sorts. Beyond that there are bicycles and horses. We opted for bicycles. We biked to both ends of the island, seeing cannons that had been set up for defense at various times in the past 500 years. One at the south end had been blown apart, apparently when there was an attempt to use it to celebrate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1952. The particular one we saw at the north end appeared to be relatively intact and much older.
Above: At the beginning of a footpath on Little Sark

Above: Cannon on the south coast of Little Sark

The land at the south end of Sark is almost a separate island called "Little Sark". It is connected to the main part of Sark by a narrow isthmus called La Coupee. Now the road across La Coupee is paved and there are railings, protecting walkers from a drop of hundreds of feet. But we heard stories about how, in the earlier part of the 20th century, school children were forced to crawl across La Coupee on their hands and knees to avoid being blown off by the strong winds. The paved road and railings were built by the Nazis during World War II, using forced laborers.
Above: La Coupee

Above and below: View down from La Coupee

The Nazi occupation during World War II is a horrific and important part of the Channel Islands history. Its evidence appears everywhere. Gun emplacements, tunnels, museums, public memorials, books and tourist souvenirs help everyone remember. Later in our Guernsey stay we visited the Occupation Museum, saw the newly released movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (about the occupation) and saw a historic reenactment at the Castle Cornet.

For the rest of this blog, see Dartmouth to Jersey, Part II

See also photos at my Flickr album.

Celebrating our 50th Anniversary in Plymouth

16 June 2018 | Plymouth, UK
Barbara/Cloudy and windy
As many of you may know, we gathered family together in the island of Kauai this past February to have the big anniversary celebration. That was chosen for a date when nearly everyone could make it. Now it's our actual 50th anniversary, and we're celebrating with just the two of us and occasionally the new friends we meet en route. Our gift to each other is this trip of a lifetime.

For a few days we rented a car and drove to some magical places in Cornwall. First there was Tintagel on the north coast - The legendary King Arthur was supposed to have lived there, and the wizard Merlin was said to have a cave down on the beach below the castle. We certainly saw the castle and the cave, but the real bonus was the spectacular scenery - the blue-green water, dramatic cliffs, stairs continuing up and up, and the ruins from many different ages up on the top. The little cove there was a landing spot for trading boats during many different centuries, back to the times of the Phoenicians and Romans, and right up through the nineteenth century. My guess is that they only came in for a few hours at high tide, because it looks as though it must get quite shallow at low tide. But looking at that lovely blue-green water, we certainly thought about what it might be like to take Sequoia in there.
Above: Tintagel cove

A few miles down the coast we visited Port Isaac, the location for the Doc Martin series. Great fun to see those places in person - looks just like in the TV show. Doc Martin's cottage had a for rent sign on it. I'm guessing the lease must come with a clause that requires the tenant to allow the film crews to have access when/if another season is filmed...
Above: Doc Martin's cottage in Port Isaac

The next day we visited a mines museum in Redruth, contemplating the lives of those Cornish miners of 200 years ago. We saw the third largest steam engine in the world, used to lift water up out of the mine shafts. We also drove down to Falmouth, where the harbor is overloaded with boats, and the streets are overloaded with tourists. The more nautical tourists and all the boaters were awaiting the departure of the Golden Globe race for single-handers. We had planned to go to Falmouth in the next few days, but that is now off the table, in light of the crush of boats there, the iffy weather and the contrary currents.

Thursday was a boat chores day. I went off to do laundry, while Craig began a full treatment of our water tanks to defeat a slight (but unpleasant) sulfur smell in the drinking water. The treatment involves a lot of bleach which sat in the tanks overnight the previous night, then treatment with vinegar, then a lot of flushing.

At one point Craig came up to meet me for lunch, while I took a break in fussing with extremely inefficient dryers. Unfortunately, Craig didn't actually turn the dock hose off (he left the end of the hose, with its spray fitting closed, down inside the water tank, under one of our floor hatches). (You know what's coming next.) When he got back to the boat, he heard the bilge pump running (we NEVER hear the bilge pump running), and once inside found that the hose had exploded and sprayed water EVERYWHERE. There was water on the ceiling, inside the medicine cabinet, on the open laptop, on the face of our prized Rie Munoz print. Three out of our four sailing boots were full to the brim with water. Cushions were soaked, rugs were soaked, and every upright tub and other container was full of water.

About then I showed up with a couple of bags of dry laundry, and we both launched into clean-up mode. We had intermittent sunshine, so 24 hours later all the cushions were dry and the rugs very close to dry. We took the Rie Munoz print out of its frame; dried it out under weights between paper towels, and now it's back together; mat very wrinkled but dry, and the artwork apparently none the worse for wear. At some future date we'll get a new mat for it. On the plus side, the interior of the boat is freshly and thoroughly clean.

We had originally planned to leave Plymouth yesterday, but we opted instead to go out for a nice dinner to celebrate our 50th anniversary. We took the ferry across to the Barbican historic area, and ate at Quay 33, a modest restaurant recommended by every reference we checked. It turned out to be an excellent choice, with plenty of fresh seafood, wonderful crusty bread, delicious sauces and exquisite desserts. We were seated next to a mother and daughter (Kim and Nina) who are from St. Maarten in the Caribbean. Nina is just finishing up a 3-year stint at the University of Plymouth and returning home. Kim runs a dive service in St. Maarten, and we'll almost certainly look them up when we are there next winter. We had a wide ranging conversation about education, art, world politics, Plymouth, sailing, diving and the Caribbean. A truly delightful evening.
Kim and Nina at Quay 33

At the ferry on the way to dinner we ran into Karen and Jean-Luc of the French vessel Archimede. Long-time readers of this blog will recall that we first met them on the Danish Island of Aerø last summer, and then again a couple of weeks ago in Ramsgate. We met for coffee this morning and hatched plans for the next couple of days while blustery winds prevail. Tonight we'll have dinner together - our description of Quay 33 was so enthusiastic that they want to go there and we concurred.

This is the essence of the kind of cruising we want to do - flexible schedules and plenty of opportunities to meet and interact with people from other places in a meaningful sort of way. I am so fortunate to be married to Craig, who is very skilled at meeting people of all sorts and drawing them into meaningful conversations. I'm along for the ride and enjoying it very much!

Best wishes to our friends and family!
Barbara & Craig
S/V Sequoia

If you'd like to see more photos, check out the Flickr album that corresponds to this post.

Historic Towns and Cities along the South Coast of England

10 June 2018 | Plymouth, UK
We have been continuing westward along the south coast of England, visiting iconic towns we've heard of before but never visited. Our pilgrim fathers and mothers were here, and so were those sailing heroes who defeated the Spanish Armada and the more recent hero soldiers we fought with in two World Wars. We see snippets of this history everywhere we visit, along with reminders of more peaceful times, such as Agatha Christie's summer home and the childhood hometown of Arthur Babbage (inventor of the first computer).
We left Portsmouth on a sunny, windy day, and all the sailors were out, sailing on the Solent, as every good English sailor is supposed to do (although we have met a few who said the Solent was not a favorite place). There were dinghy races and races involving much larger boats. We sailed past Cowes, where the very rich sailors live.
Above: Small dinghy racing with the City of Cowes in the distance.

We had hoped to put into Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight, but they were all booked up with an "Old Gaffers Association" event. Silly me, my immediate thought was that an old gaffer was an old man, or maybe something to do with filmmaking, but it turns out it means older gaff-rigged sailboats.

Above: Lymington-Yarmouth ferry

So we went instead to Lymington, which is on the south coast, and is indeed a ferry ride away from Yarmouth and the old gaffers. We became closely acquainted with that ferry, because it was departing Lymington as we went in the very narrow channel with a parade of other boats. The chart showed mudflats on either side of the channel, although all were covered at that moment. All you can do is stay as close to your side of the channel as possible, and there is indeed room for us all to get by.

We found our designated berth, and managed to get in without hitting anyone. There were all sorts of big motor yachts, overhanging the ends of smaller berths, and plenty of people out on the back decks celebrating the weekend. We became acquainted with the folks on the next boat over, particularly since they very kindly caught our lines as we docked. We shared a drink later, learning about Pimms, an alcoholic concoction with floating strawberries and mint leaves.
We walked inland, past a thousand other boats, past "England's oldest open-air seawater bath" (swimming pool to us Americans) and finally into the town proper. Plenty of rich people live here. We walked past one yard that had a Maserati and a 50's era Cadillac parked alongside a more mundane VW.
Above: expensive cars in Lymington

The center of the town is charming with narrow streets and tourist-oriented shops. There was a Musto and a Henri Lloyd shop (both sell upscale clothing for sailors). It was Saturday night and all the restaurants were full. We finally found a spot in a bar's terrace and watched the seagulls stealing food off unattended plates.

Not surprisingly in this upscale place, the marina rates were the highest we've seen, so we left the next day at noon, timing our departure to catch slack tide at "The Needles", a series of rocks marking the western end of the Isle of Wight and the exit from the Solent. It's a narrow channel and a lot of water must pass through in the changing tides, so timing is important. There is a big castle/fort on the coast with gun emplacements trained in every direction across the water. It's called Hurst Castle and was first built by Henry VIII in 1544. Its military use now ended, it's a place for walkers and sunseekers to wander.
Above: Hurst Castle

There wasn't much wind, so we motored all the way to Portland, 40 plus nautical miles to the west. (I say 40 "plus" because 40 was our distance through the water, but we had 1-3 knots of favorable current most of the way - thus the real distance may have been more like 50 nautical miles.) We chose Portland because we'd had several people say the facilities were very good there, and it looked like an easy entrance in any conditions. The town is actually called Castletown, built to service the marine industry there. South of the town is the Isle of Portland, home to many quarries which provided stone for (among others) St. Paul's Cathedral and the British Museum in London, as well as the UN in New York. The stone was also used 200 years ago to make the immense breakwater which created the largest artificial harbor in Britain. The breakwater is still in fine condition, apparently without much need for maintenance. The marina itself was built for the 2012 Olympics, and the 2012 sailing events were held there. It is indeed provided with very nice facilities!

We met Ian and Alison there, and quickly became good friends. Ian was the manager of the Olympic facilities in 2012, and the two of them were the source of a lot of good information about the immediate area and about cruising the south coast in general. They were setting out the next day for Dartmouth, as were we. They planned to leave at about 3 am to catch the slack water around the bottom of the Portland Bill, while we planned to leave at about 1:30 pm to catch the slack at the next tide cycle.

I had to look up "bill" because this was not a use I was familiar with. Most of the meanings of bill come from old French, "bille", but there are two which come from the old English word, bill: (1) the beak of a bird, and (2) "a narrow piece of land projecting into the sea: Portland Bill." Interesting that the Oxford English Dictionary uses where we are as their example!

We were warned that not only should we go around the Portland Bill at slack water, but also we should choose between 100 yards or 5 miles distance from the land. In between was reputed to be a dangerous tide race, even at slack water. We chose 100 yards offshore, and it was a complete non-event. It was interesting seeing the buildings, people and activities onshore, but we couldn't get anyone to wave at us. (It seemingly is a tourist destination - plenty of people and a few tour buses, but no wavers!)
Above: Portland Bill

We motored the rest of the way to Dartmouth - a cloudy day, and getting darker as we arrived. The entrance to Dartmouth is astonishing. The River Dart cuts a V down between high cliffs, and there is a castle on either side. We later learned that starting about the time of Henry VIII, a chain was at times strung across between the two castles, to prevent the enemies of England from entering.

Beyond the narrow entrance the river widens out and there are thousands of boats, on moorings, on anchor and in various marinas. We had reserved a slip at Darthaven Marina, on the east side of the river, at a town called Kingswear. A foot ferry and a car ferry go back and forth to Dartmouth (on the west side) pretty much continuously all day and into the evening. These are old towns, scrabbling up steep hills on both sides of the river, with green fields above and ancient buildings (or ruins) visible on some of the hillcrests. We stayed in Dartmouth three days, with ever more to see and do.
• We walked out to Dartmouth Castle at the entrance, and learned about the defensive history, including extensive exhibits of cannons and various other weaponry. Some of the cannons seemed to be aimed at a cruise ship anchored offshore. We thought that was fine, since their passengers were clogging the town. Part of the castle is St. Petrox Church, where one of the tombstone/pavers recited the history of a widow who lost her husband in a 1696 naval action against "the publick enemies of his Country" and "made his Bed in the Deep."
• We explored some of Dartmouth, winding up at the Marks & Spencer "food hall" (grocery store), which had some breathtaking prices, but also some foods we've been hankering after, like sourdough bread, strawberries that are red all the way through, and canned soups that actually have some interesting flavors (something that cannot be said of most UK soups).
• A shallow-draft ferry makes a 1 ½ hour trip up the Dart River to Totnes. At Dittersham, Agatha Christie's summer house was pointed out to us, and a bit further on, the Sharpton Estate, founded by an English sea captain who had prize money to invest. Sharpton now is a winery, featuring expensive meals and tours for tourists. Totnes is an interesting town with narrow streets, historic buildings and a museum showcasing Elizabethan life and also featuring hometown boy, Arthur Babbage, a 19th century mathematician who invented (but never built) the first computer. We had lunch at "Pie Street", which features authentic handmade English pies. Craig had the "steak and ale" and I had the "chicken curry". Both delicious.
• Ian and Alison, whom we had first met in Portland, were berthed two docks over at the Darthaven Marina. They found us and invited us over for drinks. We spent another enjoyable hour plus with them, soaked up advice about what to see and do on the south coast, and learned about theretofore unknown English customs (such as, if invited for drinks, you are NOT supposed to bring a bottle of wine, but if you are invited for dinner it's OK...) We very much hope we'll be able to stay in contact and see them again before too long.
• We took a bus to Paignton, a somewhat tawdry English seaside resort, and then the historic steam train back to our boat in Kingswear. The steam engine could have been straight out of Harry Potter, with a coal fired boiler, a steam whistle, and that iconic "Chug-ch-ch-ch, Chug-ch-ch-ch" which speeds up as it leaves the station.
Above: In front of the steam engine - Notice the view of coal burning!

• We had lunch at "The Ship Inn," a traditional English pub located on "Higher Street" (just above "High Street"). The staff couldn't say how old the pub was ("very old"), but it had a low ceiling with rough, black-painted beams, and the ceiling itself was papered with old navigation charts.
From Dartmouth we departed at 6 am, to catch the favorable tide, and made our way to Plymouth, where we now are. Again there was no wind and we motored all the way. We have landed at Plymouth Yacht Haven, a short ferry ride away from the central downtown area (the "Barbican"). We took the ferry yesterday, went to see the Mayflower Steps (from whence our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers departed for the New World), and found a completely inadequate grocery store. We'll do better tomorrow. I know where the Plymouth Marks & Spencer is...
We'll be here for 7 days total, with several major boat chores to undertake. We think we'll rent a car and go see some of the more land-based sights in Devon and Cornwall.
We hope all is well with you, our dear friends and family.
Craig and Barbara
S/V Sequoia

Check out our Flickr album which has lots more pictures corresponding to this post.

Vessel Name: Sequoia
Vessel Make/Model: Outbound 44
Hailing Port: Portland, Or
Crew: Craig & Barbara Johnston
We are the proud owners of S/V Sequoia, Outbound 44 hull #5, built for us in Shanghai, China in 2001. [...]
We care about the world and its people, and try to live responsible lives, mindful of ourselves, the places we travel to, and the people we meet. When we are away from home, we miss our sons and extended family, and try to get together as much as possible. And, dear reader, we look forward to [...]
Sequoia's Photos - Main
Putting Sequoia aboard the M/V Merwedegracht in Victoria, B.C.
3 Photos
Created 29 March 2017
Photos of our preparations to have Sequoia shipped by freighter from Victoria to Europe.
6 Photos
Created 13 March 2017